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Food

The Delicious Way To Use Up All Your Spring Greens And Veggie Scraps

Spring greens pesto fights food waste, and is as flexible as it is tasty. Find out how you can create restaurant-quality pesto with leftover veggie scraps.
A closeup of a pile of herbs and spring greens like basil, parsley and baby spinach on a white square plate. (Photo: Vanessa Chiasson)

As a habitual farm box subscriber, unusual produce and endless zucchini don’t faze me. But for the longest time, I was stumped when it came to using the tender greens and assorted herbs that were a hallmark of early spring deliveries. Even after daily salads, I was left with heaps of young beet greens, sorrel, and garlic scapes. When a friend jokingly suggested I could at least make pesto if ever some basil appeared, I wondered: Why wait?

A traditional Genoese pesto is a blend of basil, salt, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano, but I soon learned that there’s nothing wrong with deviating from the classic recipe. For instance, family food blogger Aimée Wimbush-Bourque adds asparagus and broccoli stems to her fresh pesto (and takes her low-waste approach even further by tossing leftover veggies into pasta). What did I have to lose by experimenting? My farm box pesto used all my excess herbs and greens and even things I normally composted (like carrot and radish tops). The resulting silky, luscious sauce was so good that I dunked bread crusts into the blender for mid-way taste tests.

Putting greens to good use isn’t just delicious. It’s also extremely thrifty. Joanne Gauci, Senior Policy Advisor with the National Zero Waste Council of Metro Vancouver, says: “Creatively using commonly wasted leftovers such as greens, end-of-jar oils, nuts, and other forgotten foods is a win for your wallet and a win in the fight against climate change. Canadian households lose an average of $1300 a year to avoidable food waste and by using up the food we’ve already paid for, we can save money and create delicious homemade versions of restaurant-style meals and specialty sauces, like pesto, that can be costly.”

If you’re eager to transform a stash of springtime greens, use this spring greens pesto recipe as a base for your culinary experiments. Pesto is as flexible as it is tasty!

A blue bowl holding spring greens pesto beside a spoon Spring greens pesto. (Photo: Vanessa Chiasson)

Spring Greens Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of roasted nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and pistachios all work well.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 cups of fresh greens, roughly chopped. Try a mix of herbs, beet greens, arugula, baby kale, sorrel, carrot tops, fennel fronds, garlic scapes, and radish leaves.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or high-quality canola oil
  • 1/4 cup grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano

Instructions

Blend all ingredients except the cheese until mostly smooth in a food processor, scraping down the sides as needed. Add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano for a final light blend. Pesto freezes beautifully in ice cube trays and muffin tins.

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